Dinner at Wrigley

May 3, 2008

When it comes to grocery shopping and meal planning, I’m a wee bit crazy. I usually lay out the menu for the week on Saturday or Sunday and do all the shopping then. If we make changes here or there, we can run to the great little market down the street, but most nights, we’re all set. Last week, we had—gasp—a change in plans that left us with a menu-less night. We tossed a couple ideas back and forth before Kevin came back with the winner. He got tickets to Wednesday night’s Cubs-Brewers game at Wrigley. How did I feel about hot dogs and beer for our menu-less night, he wondered.

Well, let me tell you: I felt pretty, pretty great about it. We snapped up the tickets, pretended like it wasn’t 40 degrees outside and made our way over to the Friendly Confines. We got there early to snap a couple photos of what has to be the prettiest ball park on earth.

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Ramps!!

April 29, 2008

Clearly, I’m atoning for Saturday’s seasonally-disfunctional post (stuffed bell peppers, in April!). Between yesterday’s favas beans, asparagus and peas and today’s ramps (RAMPS!!!), I’d like to think my errant eating has been absolved. So, about these ramps: I was beyond excited to find them at the market. They were tucked haphazardly among the chiles, unmarked (probably the only reason I was able to score some) and unpriced (ominous, for sure). I gathered up a bunch and sort of lost myself for a second, marveling at how simultaneously humble and stunning they looked. I spotted a nearby employee and asked him, wide-eyed and awestruck, “Are these ramps?” He smiled knowingly at me and assured me that they were indeed. Clearly, he understood. As I returned to my handful of the beauties, he mentioned: “$11.99 a pound, by the way.” I snapped out of my reverie, promptly returned half-a-handful of the ramps and began scheming about how I’d put the remaining ones to use.

Well, let me just tell you that the Internets were surprisingly unhelpful. There were not a ton of ramp recipes out there. As I was just about to abandon recipes altogether and go freestyle (probably a little reckless, seeing as though I’d never actually tasted ramps before), I found a recipe at Food & Wine’s site for a white cheese pizza with ramps.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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Spring Farro Risotto

April 28, 2008

Last weekend, Kevin—bless his heart—agreed to do the grocery shopping. We had a really busy weekend, so I jumped at the offer. I also made a ridiculously detailed grocery list. I knew I had a couple things on the list that might be difficult to find, so I included some locational information. But, for some reason, I failed to do so when I listed “fava beans”—treating them more like plain old (easy-to-find) eggs or milk, rather than the spring delicacy that they are. He had no idea whether they were fresh, canned or frozen. No idea what they looked like. No idea that he might have to fight off other foodies at the store who’d also been waiting patiently for favas to make their brief spring appearance.

To Kevin’s immense credit, he found the favas. And he scooped up a big handful and proudly presented them to me when I got home. My heart swelled with pride. And, man, was I excited to finally try out this new-to-me ingredient. Well, um, what I didn’t realize is that an entire pound of fava pods yields a mere cup of beans. So the handful (five, maybe six pods) Kevin had previously proudly brandished resulted in a scant tablespoon or two of pods. And that was after the double-shucking (first, split open the pods and extract the beans; second, plunge the beans briefly into boiling water, drain and rub off the outer skins—see the top two rows of photos, above) that they require. Apparently, favas not only like to play hard-to-get, but they’re high maintenance too. Quite the divas.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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Special Request

April 24, 2008

I mentioned the delicious menu from Saturday night’s Seder, but I didn’t mention the fact that, over dinner, Kevin’s sister Abby voiced a special request. She asked me to post a Passover-friendly dessert recipe this week. She and her roommates (she’s about to graduate from the University of Wisconsin) have apparently been on something of a baking streak. I, of course, was all too happy to grant the request.

And, well that was Saturday night. And it’s now more than half-a-Passover later. It’s not that I didn’t want to post this recipe sooner. But when I started looking for recipes, I became truly paralyzed. It’s as though every baked good imaginable has been reinvented with Passover in mind. As someone who’s fairly new to Passover, I was bewildered by the array of choices. Would I do a flourless chocolate cake? The omnipresent matzo crunch? A recipe from the back of a Maischewitz box? I eventually made up my mind and, while Passover is certainly waning at this point, I’m hoping that Abby & Co are still in search of a baking project.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos and the recipe.)

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Birthday Cake

April 14, 2008

At a restaurant, I love to peruse the menu and think about what the people at the table with me will order. It’s too bad that this isn’t a game in Vegas, because—frankly—I’m prett-y, prett-y good at it. When it comes to predicting Kevin’s order, I’m usually spot-on. And, while I’d love to claim prescience, it’s not exactly rocket science: he’s a man who knows what he likes. If there’s anything on the menu involving deep-frying, a delicious steak or molten-chocolate-ness, you can safely bet Kevin will find it, order it and love it. (At this point, I should mention that Kevin is, inexplicably, quite thin and in very good health. We don’t recommend, however, that you try this at home.)

So, when Kevin lodged a very specific request for his birthday cake—white cake with chocolate frosting—I knew better than to deviate. But, predictably, I had to gussy it up just a little bit, which led me to a vanilla bean cake with chocolate ganache frosting. I ran it by the boss, of course, and he graciously granted his consent.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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Again With the Rhubarb

April 12, 2008

I knew it was going to be like this. When I fall for something, I fall hard. Take, for instance, my love affair with Fage yogurt, my obsession with a bake shop down the street, my new baseball crush on Fukudome. Oh, sure, and Kevin too. But the most recent addition to this things-that-make-me-weak-kneed list is rhubarb. I told you about me and rhubarb a couple weeks ago, after I used it in a quick bread. And as you might have guessed from my semi-swoon back then, it wouldn’t be long until rhubarb showed up on this blog again.

Well, it’s back. And it’s still wooing me with its sassy red hue and juicy tartness. I caught a glimpse of this crisp—which is (duh) a Rhubarb Crisp—on Martha Stewart’s web site a few weeks back. With just one peek at the magenta juices creeping up at the edges of the crisp’s topping, I knew I had to make it. I told you, I’ve got it bad for rhubarb.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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My husband joins me today in becoming an age that is one year closer to 30, so I have to start by saying: Happy Birthday, Kev! And if you are wondering what kind of woman posts about vegetables on her husband’s birthday, you should rest assured. You see, I’m in the midst of making donuts (birthday breakfast) as I type this. And, later today, while the Birthday Boy is at work (I don’t have class on Fridays), I’ll be baking his birthday cake and wrapping his gift. And, then, we’ve got a big weekend of birthday festivities lined up. So there.

Okay, so maybe I’m the one who’s feeling a little guilty posting about veggies on Kevin’s birthday. But I don’t know why—because this warm zucchini salad, which we ate alongside our burritos last Saturday, is really pretty terrific. I’m constantly on the lookout for accompaniments for fajitas, enchiladas and the like. Don’t get me wrong: I love a heap of black beans or (even better) a pile of tortilla chips and salsa, but both of those things always feel a little … redundant. Not to mention heavy.

(Click more for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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